Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
I am pissed that we do not get to watch this as Ang Lee had intended it to be (120 fps, 3D 4K HD). You can see that this film was filmed in such a way that flat, 2D just do not do it justice. Nonetheless, this was a good film - just not a great film. It was more Lee's The Ice Storm meets Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima than Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker or Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down.
Very strong supporting performances by Kristen Stewart and Garret Hedlund and a definite breakthrough role for newcomer Joe Alwyn.
Lee weaved a tight story, based off the script by Jean-Christophe Castelli, who in turn based it off the novel by Ben Fountain. A character driven study, rather than an action piece, the story required the main cast to really sell the emotional and satirical conflict of war and peace, army and civilian, family and comrades. Although Alwyn, Stewart and Hedlund managed to do exactly that, the rest of the cast and the script failed to hold them up. In particular, the ending really had to dumb it down to drill across its point which is insulting to its audience. Then again, this ain't really an indie. Is it?
Castelli focused too much on trying to make this film a satire that he actually missed what the novel was really about. Too many meta, in jokes (which not of it landed) on the film industry and not enough insight into the irony of war.
Lee and cinematographer John Toll obviously shot the film with the intention for the audience to experience the whole technology. Unfortunately, we could not. The POV shots made sense but I can also imagine it to veer towards distracting. Too much panning in the Iraq scenes was a distraction when watched at normal 24 fps frame-rate. And the actual war-scenes lacked viscerality, which may have worked with the POV moments if the audience was really immersed in the scene.
Another odd directorial choice by Lee, especially since you'd think that he would have some clout by now, was the purposeful avoidance of showing Beyonce Knowles, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland's face. It just became too distracting the longer he focused on the backs of the stand-ins.
Alwyn has a great introduction with this film. The boy has potential but as of now, still limited in range. It will be interesting to see his career trajectory. Will he go the way of Jack O'Connell or Sam Worthington?
Stewart continues on her path to differentiate herself from Bella Thorne, and she is doing a tremendous job thus far. Unfortunately, she was let down by the script although she did her best to elevate it beyond the obvious.
Hedlund was a revelation. Is this really the same guy from Tron: Legacy? Well done to him for making good career choices since then, and he was easily the highlight of the film. If his material was stronger, it would not be hard to actually make a case for him to get a Best Supporting Actor nod.
Vin Diesel was miscast. Steve Martin was miscast. Chris Tucker and Ben Platt filled their roles. Fellow newcomer Makenzie Leigh was unmemorable and lacked chemistry with Alwyn to convincingly sell her character.
This film had so much potential, and buzz, going in, but it failed to fully connect with the audience either intellectually, emotionally or viscerally. Maybe should just go read the book.